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Eva Marie Saint,
A rebellious youth, sentenced to a boy's reformatory for robbing a bakery, rises through the ranks of the institution through his prowess as a long distance runner. During his solitary runs, reveries of his life and times before his incarceration lead him to re-evaluate his privileged status as the Governor's prize runner. Written by
When the boys are doing gardening work one character calls another "you mug" (meaning gullible idiot). This is incorrectly recorded in the subtitles as "you muppet" but the word "muppet" - meaning an idiot - was not in use when the film was made. See more »
A powerful and absorbing commentary on the plight of poor adolescents in working-class British society. The story is told through flashbacks, as a reform school delinquent recalls his troubled home life and the events that drove him to become what he is.
Colin (Tom Courtenay), the rebellious young man, embodies the depths to which one can sink as a result of poverty. When his father dies, he is forced to become the figure of stability in the lives of his abrasive mother and all his siblings. The incessant desire for money, instilled in him by his mother, drives him to rob a bakery. This lands him in reform school, where his aptitude as a long distance runner catches the eye of the school's progressive governor (Michael Redgrave). The governor has resolved that his students must defeat the local public school in a race, and puts Colin in training to represent them.
Running provides Colin with an opportunity to escape his problems, vent his aggressions, and consider his prospects. The governor takes a liking in him and begins giving him special privileges. He is forced to decide if he should continue with his defiant behavior, or instead play by the rules.
Redgrave wisely plays the governor not as a stereotypical prison warden, but as a fair and rational man driven to win. Courtenay's performance is nothing short of brilliant. He captures all the agony of an individual forced to mature before his time, molded by a society which has no use for his kind. Do any of the inmates in the school really reform, or do they all just `play the game' until they are released? This is among the many pertinent questions raised by this key film of its time.
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